At Williams College, small jazz groups put in spotlight


WILLIAMSTOWN -- The four small-group jazz performances over the next two weeks will cap a semester of music-making and showcase how Williams College plays jazz.

The Jazz Vocal Ensemble and The Vocal Jazz Studio Recital will perform on Saturday, May 4, at 4 p.m.; the Williams Jazz Sextet on Sunday, May 5, at noon.; Small Jazz Ensembles on Wednesday, May 8, at 7 p.m.; and the Jazz Guitar Studio Recital on Tuesday, May 14, at 7 p.m.

All take place in the Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall on the Williams College campus and are free and open to the public.

Small ensembles are jazz forms in and of themselves, and bring together musicians of many levels. They allow an accomplished improviser to polish skills and push on into uncharted territory, while a neophyte gets the hang of things and waits for the moment to step out in front.

The Williams Vocal Jazz Ensemble directed by Laura Pierce performs arrangements in the style of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross and the New York Voices, as well as arrangements of their own.

Spontaneously improvised scat-singing solos are part of each performance.

The singers Banyi Huang ‘15, Kimberly Liu ‘13, Amanda Ng ‘13, Chie Togami ‘13, Isabel Hanson ‘16, Daniel Potter ‘16, Nicole Chen ‘15 and Inez Tan ‘12 are joined by Ben Kohn on piano.

The performance features classic jazz tunes from the Great American Songbook: "Over the Rainbow," "Pennies From Heaven" and "You Stepped Out of a Dream."

The Williams Jazz Sextet does some of its own composing and arranging and offers new takes on the standards. The sextet consists of Jonathan Dely ‘15, trumpet; Andrew Quinn ‘13, tenor saxophone; Daniel Schwartz ‘13, guitar; Gregory Ferland ‘16, bass; Brian Levine ‘16, drums; and Abe Sanchez, piano.

Coach and mentor is Avery Sharpe, a bass player who has performed with such jazz legends as McCoy Tyner, Archie Shepp, and Art Blakey, just to name a few.

The Small Jazz Ensembles concert on May 8 presents a jazz combo featuring compositions and arrangements written by the students for their course in jazz arranging and composition, but not excluding the standards that underpin the style.

One of these groups is led by Andy Jaffe, director of jazz activities at Williams. Musicians from The Williams Jazz Sextet also make an appearance.

Jazz guitarists get a date all their own on May 14 with Robert Phelps who accompanies his students with choice blues and standard tunes. Phelps is a performer, author, and long time teacher of guitar at Williams.


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